Esper, China DM Talk of Tensions in South China Sea

US demands China 'abide by international laws, rules, and norms'

Defense Secretary Mark Esper and his Chinese counterpart Wei Fenghe spoke for over an hour and a half on the phone on Thursday, according to the Pentagon, the first time they’d spoken since March.

Though they discussed a variety of subjects, Esper in particular brought up his problems with Chinese activities in the South China Sea, demanding China “abide by international laws, rules, and norms.”

China is one of several nations with conflicting claims in the South China Sea. the US backs everyone’s claims that conflict with the Chinese, and insist China has no right to claim large portions of the sea as part of their maritime territory.

The two had agreed on the need for crisis communications, likely related to the hotline that is being installed, and which other Pentagon officials were reportedly concerned China would “misuse” against the US.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of